In celebration of Women’s History Month, we’re going to take a look at suffrage pilgrimages that took place in Maryland in the summers of 1914 and 1915.
Back in August 2020, the Historic Maryland Newspapers Project and the Maryland State Archives co-hosted a social media campaign in honor of the centennial of the Nineteenth Amendment. Many of the posts created for the campaign came from a newspaper digitized by HMNP in Chronicling America titled the Maryland Suffrage News.
First published in Baltimore in 1912, the Maryland Suffrage News was founded by Edith Houghton Hooker, a member of the Just Government League. Soon after its publication, the newspaper “became the voice of the white women’s suffrage movement in Maryland.” While the Maryland Suffrage News occasionally reported on African American women’s suffrage chapters, it was often done in a discriminatory manner and, overall, minority women’s rights were by and large left out of the paper and the larger women’s suffrage movement. The newspaper was well-known outside of Maryland with subscribers as far away as California. After the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified in August 1920, the Maryland Suffrage News changed its name to the Maryland Women’s News; this title change went into effect in October 1920.
While researching Maryland Suffrage News articles for the social media campaign, we discovered that several suffrage pilgrimages took place across the state of Maryland; the newspaper also called them “hikes,” “marches,” or “caravans.” We were surprised to learn that these pilgrimages occurred, as there was very little mention of them in the other Maryland newspaper tiles in Chronicling America. With 14 issues currently available on Chronicling America (and more to come!), we figured we would wrap up Women’s History Month with a little exploration of these pilgrimages.
The main pilgrimage that the Maryland Suffrage News reported on took place in western Maryland in June 1914. Led by “Colonel” Lola Carson Trax and “General” Edna Story Latimer, a group of at least seven suffragists hiked to the western-most counties of Maryland to promote the suffrage movement. Although the Maryland Suffrage News reported that the pilgrimage primarily took place in Garrett County, based on their itinerary, it appears that the suffragists also made some stops in Allegheny County. After departing from Baltimore, the suffragists planned to officially start the pilgrimage in Cumberland on June 13, 1914 and made their first official stop in Frostburg on June 16. From Frostburg, they continued hiking into Garrett County and planned to stop in several towns, such as Grantsville, Friendsville, and Oakland before concluding in Bloomington on June 27, 1914. As the group completed their pilgrimage around the state, they would meet with suffragists from the town and together host the local community to share about women’s suffrage; one such meeting was held in Oakland on June 23. Over about 14 days, the suffragists hiked over 100 miles. While this pilgrimage through western Maryland may not have been as large as others, the Maryland Suffrage News articles provide great insight as to why suffragists hiked.
“The Prairie Schooner Campaign”
About one year after the western Maryland pilgrimage, another pilgrimage took place in multiple parts of Maryland. One June 26, 1915, the Maryland Suffrage News reported that suffragists hiked from southern Maryland, through Washington DC, and up to Baltimore. The hiking through southern Maryland seemed to be successful for the suffragists’ campaign: according to Lola C. Trax, one of the leaders of this pilgrimage, the suffragists “‘spoke to 2423 people, secured 343 members, and raised $65.27’” over seventeen days. For the second half of this pilgrimage, suffragists planned to hike from Baltimore and through Harford County. Based on the itinerary printed in this same issue of the Maryland Suffrage News, the suffragists were scheduled to stop in 14 towns throughout Harford County over 8 days before returning to Baltimore.
Based on the Maryland Suffrage News, there were other pilgrimages around the state, including Howard County, Anne Arundel County, Charles County, St. Mary’s County, and possibly parts of Prince George’s County.
So, what exactly was the purpose of suffrage pilgrimages? Based on the description from Lola Trax regarding the southern Maryland pilgrimage, the goal of these journeys seemed to be mainly to promote the suffrage movement in Maryland and fundraise; this would also explain the meetings at various stopping points during the pilgrimage. In her essay “The Pilgrimage in Western Maryland” from the June 13, 1914 issue of the Maryland Suffrage News, Edna Story Latimer stated that these pilgrimages are “[A] form of reaching the people in every part of the State has become very popular with suffragists…It brings us in such close touch with individuals.” Latimer also mentions that people are genuinely curious about the marching suffragists, especially women who work inside the home. Being part of the suffrage movement and these pilgrimages across Maryland allowed women to branch out of the home and become more politically active in their communities.
But did any of these pilgrimages benefit the suffrage movement in Maryland? It’s hard to tell. According to an article written by Lola Carson Trax, many people valued the pilgrimages for the publicity it gave to the suffrage movement, especially in parts of Maryland that may have been harder to reach in the 1900s. Trax also said that those who walked in the pilgrimage and the audiences who attended the meetings at their stopping points “come to listen, and they stay until the last word has been uttered.”
With additional issues of the Maryland Suffrage News being digitized on Chronicling America, we hope to learn more about the suffrage pilgrimages and other suffrage events held in Maryland. Stay tuned!
To find out more about women’s history in the newspapers, visit the Chronicling America newspaper database, and be sure to follow @HistoricMDNews on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook for more informative content!
This post is part of a monthly guest blog post series featuring the Historic Maryland Newspapers Project and Chronicling America. The Historic Maryland Newspapers Project at University of Maryland Libraries is the Maryland state awardee of the National Digital Newspaper Program. National Endowment for the Humanities and Library of Congress developed this program for state partners to digitize historic newspapers from across the country and make them freely accessible in the Chronicling America newspaper database.
Sarah McKenna is a student assistant for the Historic Maryland Newspapers Project and a second year MLIS student in the College of Information Studies. Additionally, McKenna is a Graduate Assistant in the Office of Undergraduate Admissions.